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Earth Matters

Land as Material and Metaphor in the Arts of Africa

Karen E. Milbourne, Allan DeSouza (Contributions by), Clive van den Berg (Contributions by), Wangechi Mutu (Contributions by), George Osodi (Contributions by)


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Featuring more than 100 extraordinary works of art from 1800 to the present, Earth Matters reveals how African individuals and communities have visually mediated their most poignant relationships with the land—whether it be to earth as a sacred or medicinal material, as something uncovered by mining or claimed by burial, as a surface to be interpreted and turned to for inspiration, or as an environment to be protected. 

Both internationally recognized and emerging contemporary artists are represented, from the continent and diaspora, including El Anatsui, Ghada Amer, Sammy Baloji, Ingrid Mwangi and William Kentridge. Highlights include a pair of rare Yoruba onile figures, a one-of-a-kind Punu reliquary from Gabon, and 3 bocio figures from the personal collection of legendary French dealer Jacques Kerchache. The text includes statements by contemporary African artists including Wangechi Mutu, Clive van den Berg, Allan de Souza, and George Osodi. National Museum of African Art curator Karen E. Milbourne explores how diverse African concepts of healing, the sacred, identity, memory, history, and environmental sustainability have all been formed in relation to the land in this pioneering scholarly study.

The Monacelli Press, 9781580933704, 288pp.

Publication Date: November 12, 2013

About the Author

Karen E. Milbourne is curator at the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution. Formerly she was associate curator at the Baltimore Museum of Art, and assistant professor at the University of Kentucky. She has contributed to African Cosmos: Stellar Arts (The Monacelli Press, 2012).